I recently met a friend who is not Mormon but is seeing a Mormon therapist in the area I live that maintains a private practice.

In a nutshell, my friend is seeing her therapist for a number of issues: among them are alcohol abuse, two prior DUIs, relationship and commitment issues, and the recent exploration of her own potential homosexual orientation. Many of these issues are moral in nature for her therapist. Her past relationships with men, her difficulty making longer commitments, and a recent potential romantic relationship with a woman, are moral issues with heavy spiritual ramifications according to her therapist.

My friend has indicated that she has at times felt judgment and guilt-inducing shame from her therapist regarding her past decisions. She reports that these feelings contribute to her hesitation to really open up with her therapist about other things. And so we can now see how the therapeutic relationship has been compromised. This is what we call counter-transference in the professional field (the therapist is transferring her own issues onto the client) and crosses ethical guidelines.

I must acknowledge that the portion of events I am hearing is one-sided. I am unable to speak with my friend’s therapist, nor was I present in the sessions where the issues occurred.

However, we know through quite a bit of research that religious and cultural bias plays a role in how therapy is conducted by professionals. And why it is so important to be aware of this phenomenon both as professionals and as consumers.

It is important that as we seek professional help for the issues we are facing in our personal lives, we look for those who will fit the following criteria:

1. Have credentials and background that support the work they do.

2. Have taken the time to be aware of personal religious/cultural bias by having had sufficient training in ethics.

3. Are open to your feedback when you share that you are having a negative experience due to personal bias you are picking up on.

4. Are not projecting their personal beliefs or standards of “health” onto their clients, which are not supported by the medical or mental health community.

5. Will be respectful of your spiritual/religious beliefs (or lack thereof) and the cultural traditions you come from.

6. Will not speak from a place where a God exists or does not exist.

There are many effective therapists, counselors, and coaches who come from religious traditions and cultural backgrounds of their own; as there are many effective professionals who come from secular stances. The key is to find those who will honor your journey… honor your goals in the work you are doing… and be doing the best they can to offer the best “standard of care” practices in their work. This can be tricky work if someone’s beliefs go against current medical knowledge.

However, here at Symmetry Solutions, we go to great lengths to make sure this is a weekly topic of discussion and something we address at every supervisory session.

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